Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Is it OK to take antidepressant medication?

The past is in the past, but gosh darn it, I should have been taking an antidepressant years ago. I don't know what I was waiting for. Someone to tell me to? A good feeling that I was doing the right thing? A sign from God? The right timing? Or maybe it would just go away? Please God just let it go away.

I realized I would never get that "it's OK" feeling to take medicine.

But I know I was waiting. I knew deep down that I could really benefit from trying out the medicine again. My stubbornness coupled with my "Family of Origin" caused me to resist help for a long time.

Family of Origin (a term described to me by a counselor a while ago) is how we have been shaped by our families. It is not necessarily a bad or good thing, just something that you should be aware of especially when joining two families together in marriage. Most of my family habits are good things, because I was raised in a wonderful family.

Hilarious example, in my family, when we were sick with a stomach bug, we had towels by our bed or on our pillow to throw up in if we couldn't make it to the bathroom. I didn't realize that no one else really did that. In my husbands family, they had buckets or bowls...like most people. Neither way is right or wrong, they're just different. If I think my way is always right, then by default, the other way is always wrong...which can cause a lot of problems in a relationship obviously. It is best to be truly open to other ideas, think things through, and challenge yourself when necessary.

Because of my FOO, I realized that I was holding onto beliefs about taking medicine. In my extended family (and in a lot of families), medicine has this kind of stigma. My perception is that if you take medication you are weak, lazy, a failure, going to die of cancer at a young age, or just plain pitiable. I don't know where I learned this. I don't know how or when. I think it's just a gradual process learned from many conversations over the years. And maybe its just my perception of the perception. I could very well be projecting my fears onto other people thoughts.

Regardless, I am embarrassed. I am embarrassed to be taking an antidepressant. I am embarrassed to admit to my family that I am depressed and I need to take medication. I am actually even afraid to tell anyone that I am depressed and taking medication.

I had known for a while that things were not good and I needed some help. Unfortunately, no one was going to be able to convince me that going to counseling and taking medicine was the right thing to do. No one could walk me through it, holding my hand telling me it would be ok. I would never get those "good feelings" that I was making the right decision. No one would do it for me and no one would make me feel ok about doing it. I had to make the call. I had to show up at the assessment appointment, then again at the psychiatrist appointment. I had to pick up my prescription at the Drug Store. Then, I have to go back to the counseling center and pharmacy every few months. I had to battle myself every time...and still do.

Then why did I make my own decision? I really don't know why. And I really don't know how. I just did. The Grace of God maybe? I don't know why some people suffering from depression decide to take care of themselves while others decide to commit suicide. It's awful. It breaks my heart. There is so much I don't understand.

But I think it would help if we got rid of this medication stigma so people aren't so darn afraid of taking medicine that could save their life.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Fear not

My son, Dominic, is a little on the timid side. He gets startled and frightened easily. Loud noises, like the horn at a basketball game, or a "dunder-storm" scare him...which I'm sure is typical for a two year old. Of course, I try to be compassionate and understanding. I tell him "it's OK, you're OK, it can't hurt you" or "I'm here and I'll keep you safe" or something like that. I try to help him see that he doesn't have to be afraid. It's hard to see him afraid. But, at times, it's humorous. Like when he screams and covers his mouth every time he sees a fly. I guess I shouldn't have sang him the song, "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly".

Jesus tells us "Be not afraid!" I heard once that, in the Bible, God tells us to fear not 365 times - one for each day of the year. I'm not sure if that's true. I personally have not gone through the bible and counted...If I had that much free time!!!

I imagine that Our Heavenly Father has compassion for us when He sees us afraid of things. Maybe even sometimes we make Him chuckle. "Ah, my silly children, you don't have to be afraid of things like the future, money, or global warming. I AM here. I will keep you safe. Trust me. You don't understand now, but you will later."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Body, Mind, and Spirit

Thinking about the human person and He who made us who we are.

We are made up of body, mind, and spirit. I think I could get a couple of people to agree with me there.

As a Catholic, we mean the same thing, we just have a little different language for it. In His great mercy, God gave us each of these capacities: a Body, or "the flesh" that will rise again and live forever in Heaven or Hell, an Intellect, and a Will.

After original sin, we, as human beings, were no longer working in harmony as one: body, mind, and soul together. From personal experience, I can attest to the disunity. The body goes against the mind, being obstinate to what we want to do. The mind goes against the spirit...my heart is telling me one thing and my mind is telling me another. And the spirit is sometimes trapped in a broken body.

But God brings about good from every situation. He does not waste one second of suffering, but uses each and every situation to effect good, whether or not we realize it or see the results in this life.

So, I was thinking about all three faculties of the human person and wondering how they all fit into God's plan for my life. He didn't create us to be in constant disharmony, but He created us for peace and happiness.

I know my spirit is weak. I often feel very betrayed by my emotions. I've learned to not trust my feelings all the time. My feelings come and go like the weather and I have little or no control over them.

My mind sometimes fails me too. I doubt, over-analyze, worry, doubt some more, question, assume, etcetera, etcetera.

What do I do, then, when both my soul AND my mind are working against my greater good?

I think this may be why habits are so important. ("Duh!" you say. Well, I'm a slow learner.)

My body goes through habits and rituals each day. I wake up, I check my phone to see the time, I get up, I bless myself with holy water, I make my bed, and, my favorite part, I drink a cup of highly caffeinated, deliciously sweetened, perfectly brewed coffee. I hardly think about this things anymore. My body just goes through the motions with my mind and soul barely even being present.

I used to think these kind of actions weren't good. I thought I had to present for every moment. But, I'm thinking differently now. Perhaps, our mindless habits are our saving grace. Perhaps, they are a good thing that God gave us to help us overcome the disunity of our "self".

We should use the times of a joyful spirit, when our hearts feel the Love of God, to establish a solid, realistic, prayer routine. So, when the time comes, because it will come, when we have dark nights of the soul and our mind is full of doubt, we can trust our bodies to carry us through the motions, even if our hearts aren't fully present. Then, when the time comes, because it will come, when we feel consolations again and feel the peace of the Lord, we haven't gone astray but have tried our hardest to keep on running the race. I sense this is how we form a deep and lasting friendship with Our Lord, instead of just "starting over" again and again.

When I have a healthy mind, when I rejoice in the Lord and I am thankful for His good works in my life, I'll try to establish a habit of positive thinking. And, even still, I'll work on the habit of praying and ordering my whole life to serve God in whatever way He calls me to do. Can I get a "True Freedom!!!"? Oh, don't get me started on the meaning of "freedom". Another time, another time...

Where was I?

Alas! When times are good, I am always tempted to skip prayer...and forget about God. Why? Because I don't feel like I need Him? Because I'm too confident in my own abilities? Because I'm too distracted with making my life HERE comfortable? "D" all of the above.

Something like, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, or whatever that saying is. If my internal strife is not loudly beckoning me to do something, the noise of everything else seem more important: my kids screaming, the piles of dishes by the sink, my frizzy hair.

I'm a slave to whatever seems most important at the time, whatever is the loudest. Hmmm...

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Day to Recognize Mothers

I have a white board calendar that I update each month. Appointments, Birthdays, Holidays, To-do lists, Bills due, Trash out on Thursday evenings, etc. For today, I did not write in Mother's Day. Not that I forgot about it, I just didn't want to.

This year, I have not felt like I've done a good job at all. I don't want to be acknowledged for all the things I am not proud of. Can't we skim past this Hallmark holiday just this once?

Before becoming a mom, I would have admitted that I was a somewhat virtuous person, kind, thoughtful, and patience, with no temper. Yet, in these past few years, I've discovered that I'm severely lacking in virtue. I have very little patience and a lot of anger when I haven't had a lot of sleep. I am also way more selfish than I would have thought.

Being a mom has pushed me way past my breaking point. And just when I think I have spent it all, I am asked to give a little more.

Like in "The Horse and His Boy", part of the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, when the horse and his boy are being chased by a lion. The horse thought he was running his fastest, until the lion gained on him and he found he had more speed to give.

We don't realize what we are capable of until faced with adversity. We are our biggest obstacles. And we become complacent in times of peace and happiness. We grow greater and stronger when confronted with trials.

Looking back, I will admit that I am amazed at what I have done. But it is not an amazement of myself. I am in awe of how much God has helped me overcome myself. Kicking and screaming, He has had to drag me through this year. I did not want to do it. I still don't want to. I want to sleep for three days straight. Yet, I am eternally grateful that He pulled me along, despite my protests. I know He loves me because He could have just left me for the vultures.

Now that I realize that I am being carried on the shoulders of Christ, like a sheep and a shepherd, I am comforted. I don't want to do it without God's help anymore.

Carry me through the rest of my life, Lord. If my suffering goes away, will I still remember you, Lord? Don't take away my suffering if it means I will not be united to You.

I'm sure I won't be happy every day about sacrificing...but, at least for today, I am thankful.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Please let me sleep

Sleep is really important.

Understatement of the day.

My 8 month old son won't let me sleep. I've tried for months to help him, but nothing seems to be working. I'm try to be consistent. I'm trying to train him to fall asleep on his own. But when he's been awake for 2-3 hours during the night, then what? I'm desperate for some more sleep.

How can I take care of myself when I'm taking care of two little kids?

My list of old coping skills makes me laugh:
"Take a walk
Call a friend
Take a nap
Pray a rosary
Take a shower"

While those things are great, surely still to work, there's no way I can do those things when I need to anymore.

With little sleep and little time to take care of myself, my patience occurs less and my short-temper appears often. I hate being so angry at an 8 month old.

Now I'm angry that I'm angry.

Now I'm too tired to be angry anymore. I'm just sad.

Sometimes it helps me to remember that the ultimate goal is to get to Heaven, not to get your kids to sleep through the night.

That line only works on me since taking antidepressant medication. And I can only take a deep breath and let it go after two cups of coffee, as well.

“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”

-Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

So many questions, so little time

My life sometimes feels like a constant train.

The trains that go by my house are loud, annoying, and worst of all, persistent. All day, all night, trains roll through my back yard, blowing their horns. Some horns are louder than others. Some train driver engineers people feel the need to blow the horn from Versailles to Sidney. Some just give a little "toot-toot" to let you know they are there. I can hear a train coming from far away because of the low rumble. It reaches a height that shakes the whole house. It can rattle the clock and the cupboard doors. My heart beats faster and I hold my breath to see if I might get lucky this time and both kids will sleep through it.

Symbolically, similar trains barrel through my head, in addition to the real trains that go by about two football fields away.

I'm constantly bombarded by negative thoughts, images, torments, bad memories, regrets, "what-ifs", and self-loathing. I can't control these bad feelings, they just keep coming all day and all night.

On the outside, everything is more than fine. I have so much to be thankful for. I have an amazingly wonderful, supportive, kind-hearted, generous, selfless husband. Two beautiful, rambunctious boys who are growing and learning at an incredible pace. We are fixing up a lovely old house, and I am still in shock that we get to live there and raise our kids there. I step back and look at my life and I have absolutely no reason to feel bad.

And, yet, I do. I feel bad all the time. I feel so bad that I think about escaping all the time. Awful.

What have I done about it? Well, first nothing. I just hoped and prayed it would go away. I immersed myself in prayer and came to the conclusion that these bad feelings were a cross that I just had to offer up. Then, when it got worse, I tired losing weight and exercising. It seemed to help at first, but then I just had to exercise more and more and eat less and less to feel better. Then I turned to smoking and drinking and caffeine. Then, I gave all that up. When that didn't help, I took it all back up again. Years went by. I sought the help of priests, doctors, nutritionists, massage therapists, naturopath doctors, counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists.

I finally started taking medication.......and it helped. Years of searching and trying and one tiny little pill makes all the difference. It's so small. It seems so small a thing. It really is very small. How can one itsy-bitsy dose of an anti-depressant help me so much?

I don't understand, Lord. I wish with all my heart I could understand.

It's a hard pill to swallow. The medicine helps me so much, but I feel like I'm cheating by taking it. I feel like I'm taking the "easy" route by "giving up" and "giving in" and taking a pill...even though it's so far from giving up. I still have to take care of myself. I still have to get enough sleep. I still have to take time to pray and relax and shower and eat and get out from time to time and go to counseling and fail and try again and fail and try again and all that.

Why do I need to take the medicine, Lord? Why does taking medicine make me feel a little less than my peers? Why does taking medicine make me feel guilty? Like, "They didn't have medicine in the olden days. What did they do? They sucked it up and dealt with it!" Or, "Medication doesn't help everyone. Some people have to search and search for a medicine that helps them." And "What if my body gets used to it and it stops working someday?"

So many questions.

Not enough time to work them out.

Ever plopping myself down at the foot of His cross, I beg the Lord. Help me understand.

In the stillness of my heart, I can hear HIM saying to me. "I am not asking you to understand. I am asking you to humbly obey."

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tap, Tap, Tap, "Is this thing on?"

Brushing the dust off this here ol' blog.

Guess I have the need to ramble again.

I have things in my head that I need to sort out and work through, feelings to analyze, fears to overcome, hesitations to bring out into the open... Might as well do that here.

About two months ago, I started taking an anti-depressant again. And its just such a gosh darn hard thing to do. Why? I don't know.

But I do know that I'll take it the rest of my life if I have to.

I want to understand. I wish I could understand. I've begged God to help me understand why. Why me? What is depression? Why is my brain different? Why do I need medicine to function? Why doesn't He just heal me? Does He want me to just offer it up? Am I doing the right thing?